ROC the Future calls for 'transformational' change for Rochester City School District

    (WHAM photo)

    Rochester, N.Y. - City and community leaders came together Monday to call for a "systemic and transformational" change in the Rochester City School District.

    ROC the Future has launched its "Our Children. Our Future." campaign, calling for greater community involvement in those changes.

    In a letter to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and State Board of Regents, ROC the Future stated that the system is broken and must be replaced.

    MORE: Rochester's mayor joins call for more state help for City School District

    This comes as the State Education Department crafts its response to a report assessing the district's future.

    Leaders say their letter does not necessarily call for state or mayoral control of the district, but rather an increased community involvement in how the district is run.

    "We are not asking for a state takeover, a mayor takeover, any particular takeover, what we’re asking the state to do is support a community engaged process," said Ajamu Kitwana, the alliance director for ROC the Future.

    Community leaders, groups and businesses have been called upon to sign a petition calling for those changes immediately.

    "I do think we are saying we have to have a different way of doing of business, we just don’t know what that is," said Jackie Campbell, the alliance director for ROC the Future. "What we’re saying is we want to co-develop what it looks like."

    The group says it wanted to send the letter and start the petition now because it believes the community needs to be a part of any changes the state might recommend.

    "If the community is not engaged in the process, then we don't have the right kind of system that's going to guarantee the education our kids need," said Campbell. "What we're saying is that we have to develop a different way of engaging the community, and other communities have done that. We're saying we want to do that together."

    On Monday morning, Mayor Lovely Warren and Congressman Joe Morelle were among those calling for the changes.

    "Today is about coming together as a community and taking the blame- each one of us- about the success and failure of our kids," said Warren.

    Both the Rochester Teacher's Association president Adam Urbanksi and RCSD School Board president Van White criticized the letter, and said they were left out of the conversation with ROC the Future.

    "There was no specific solution," said White. We need to back up and engage a table that has a lot of community leaders at it and have a conversation about what is necessary to completely transform this district."

    When asked about the possibility of mayoral control over the district, the mayor once again did not say whether she believes that is the answer, but added the city will make it work if the state says that is the solution.

    To learn more about ROC the Future or the petition, click here.

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